I know it’s a bit blasphemous as a traveler to admit you don’t quite fancy a place, so prepare the tar and feathers: When I went to Dublin the first time, I didn’t quite fancy it. Don’t get me wrong—the accents are nice and you can find some pretty weird stuff in the tourist shops. But the city itself lacks some flavor at first glance.
For the tourist in the UK, one of the most exciting parts of travel (in my mind, anyway) is getting to take trains everywhere. While the UK does also have a bus system, I’ve found trains to be faster, more spacious, and more fun. At first glance, train tickets might seem outrageously expensive. I still remember when my friend and I arrived at Paddington in London to get a ticket to Bath for travel that same day, only to discover a return ticket would cost £60—each!
Stonehenge is great and all, but it definitely has its drawbacks. As one of the wonders of the ancient world, it comes with a lot of prestige—and a lot of tourists. Though new facilities at the site are doing a better job breaking up the crowds, you still have to get up pretty early if you want the place to yourself. And no matter what time of day you’re there, you won’t get access to the stones themselves unless you’re one of the first 20,000 people to arrive on one of the solstices.
While studying abroad a few years ago, I had the opportunity to go with the International Students Club’s coordinator (Tony), his wife, and another international student to Wales for a lively four-day walking adventure. I had been in love with Wales since I was fifteen and found The Welsh Fairy Book in my local library, so of course I jumped on the opportunity!
On a rare clear day in early spring, some friends and I left Galway bound for Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands in Ireland. Several tour companies run day trips from the city, and it was very easy to set up. We traveled by bus into the countryside, and then caught a ferry across the Atlantic to the island.
On the sliding scale of Tolkien fandom insanity, I probably fall in the upper-middle end of the spectrum. So when I found out I’d be living in England, I was only a little excited by the prospect visiting the sights that inspired one of my favorite authors.